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In the fight against fake news, don’t let emotions take hold

Singaporeans are more reliant than ever on social media to connect with the outside world during the circuit breaker to curb the spread of Covid-19.

In the fight against fake news, don’t let emotions take hold

The writer says a simple solution to fight fake news and disengage from emotional thinking is to take a break.

Singaporeans are more reliant than ever on social media to connect with the outside world during the circuit breaker to curb the spread of Covid-19.

We are becoming accustomed to the cyber domain, socialising with our families and friends by posting stories and photos on social media as well as sharing interesting articles from the Web.

But to an adversary, our innocent action of forwarding a post may be weaponised to disrupt societal integrity. Specifically, the surge in disinformation regarding Covid-19 is concerning.

This is evident in recent disinformation campaigns in China and Russia as reported by the New York Times, where false stories were spread to cast doubt on the origins of the coronavirus and spread fear.

But why do we fall easily for false information?

From the perspective of behavioural science, our decision-making capabilities can often be compromised by our emotions, causing us to make intuitive decisions.

Hence, stories that stimulate our feelings should be viewed carefully. It is easy to believe a story posted online at a glance, especially when the narrator peppers it with characters with whom we can associate, for example, a friend’s mother-in-law.

Before rushing to hit “like” or share a post, take a minute and ask yourself this question: Is this true?

Surprisingly, the answer is obvious most of the time — things that are unheard of or too good to be true will most likely be false. But blinded by our emotions in an instant, we resort to making quick decisions that feel right.

A simple solution to disengage from emotional thinking is to take a break. Do something else and come back later.

More importantly, it is better to share accurate information with our families and friends than spam them with false information.

Have views on this issue or a news topic you care about? Send your letter to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number. 

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fake news disinformation Covid-19 coronavirus

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